My answer to that classic sales pitch question “What keeps you awake at night?” is simple: usually the radio.
Where normally I drift in and out of sleep in the wee hours soundtracked by Planet Rock’s typically restful graveyard shift – Deep Purple, Sabbath… proper music – this night I had left it on some talk radio. I don’t want to say it was Radio 4, because that would make feel old. But it might have been. All I really remember from what could have only been a few seconds of semi-sentience is someone reading part of that famous Robert Frost poem about choosing between two roads – “I took the one less travelled by / And that has made all the difference”.
It’s a good line. An important line, and one that I feel like I can apply to lots of areas of my life. It’s also one that I think holds a vital lesson for salespeople. That lesson is this: never avoid a road just because it looks like it’s going to be difficult. Often they look that way because they’re ‘less travelled by’…
That’s good for a few reasons.
1.Less Competition: You might put a call in to a dream prospect. They might tell you they are not interested. You might stop calling them and draw a line under it. 90% of sales people will. Which means that there’s much, much less competition for those that keep trying. Don’t hassle them, but make a note to check in with them quarterly…
2. Honing Your Sales Skills: The road less travelled demands much, much more of you as a sales person. You need to be better in order to walk it. Up your game – test the waters at different entry levels with that dream client that turned you down, put the hours in setting up a robust strategy to find your way in. Better still, find out why they turned you – how you fell short of delivering the value they are looking for – and change something fundamental to improve your offering.
3.Greater Rewards: The fact is that the road less travelled often leads to exponentially better rewards… if you can reach them. It’s the same as the difference between being a transactional vendor and a trusted advisor – the latter is harder, more involved and more demanding, but is ultimately better for everyone. Try harder, go the extra mile, take your offering and your strategy back to the drawing board when everyone else just runs home to lick their wounds.
People give up on a client because the path to getting that all important scribble on the dotted line looks too difficult. That’s fine if you’re looking to be a bog standard sales person. If you want to scrape around each quarter to reach your number, if you want to keep things transactional – get in, sell some product, and get out. But if you want to start offering clients the sort of value that no one else is offering them, if you want to be better than a sales floor drone, if you want to step your game up in a way that your peers can’t or won’t… look for the road less travelled, and get walking.